Teacher Toolkit For Seesaw

Many teachers are using @Seesaw for student portfolios or as an online work journal. Here are some resources that I’ve cooked up for how to go beyond simply posting student work to creating an environment that facilitates learning.

Click on any of the below articles for a thorough write-up on ways to use Seesaw in your classroom! 

  1. Developing Seesaw Activities into Authentic Learning Engagements

  2. Using Seesaw to Teach Students Social Media

  3. BLE Feeling Stale? 3 Kid Friendly Tools to Spice up Your E-learning Platform.

  4. 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Seesaw

  5. Seesaw Trick: The Imaginary Student

  6. Connected Blogs Redefine Learning

  7. C21 Pen Pals: The Global Classroom Project

  8. Podcasts (on Seesaw) are Great Way to Develop Speaking and Listening

    Other Resources:

  1. Seesaw Information from a new Seesaw Ambassador: From Mr. Hill’s Musings

  2. All of Seesaw’s Videos: From Seesaw’s Help Center


My Week of Professional Learning #AEC2016

Stephanie and I had the pleasure of enjoying five days of amazing #AfricaEd at the AISA 2016 Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you ever have the chance to attend the AISA conference, either by your own dime or your school’s, I highly recommend it.
Here are the links to all five posts that I wrote during this amazing experience.


We hope you enjoyed reading though some of these. If you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter and check out @SGroshell’s Teachers Pay Teachers.
First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Day 5 #AEC2016: It’s not about the “stuff”; It’s about the people.

One of the great people in my life, Camp Director @tahoescotty, always says that camp is not about the “stuff”; it’s about the people. It’s about the relationships. Nowhere does that statement hold more true than at AEC Conference 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In the end of the day, it’s not about the quality of the food, the fanciness of the gala dinner or the length of the cocktail hour. It’s about the people.


I want to thank everyone at my school that was involved in giving me a chance to learn and grow during this week. I will be sure to honor your investment and your confidence in me. I also want to thank my students for keeping in contact with me throughout the conference, and I apologize in advance for the experimentation that they will inevitably suffer thanks to my wonderful workshops. I want to thank my learning facilitators Ryan Harwood (@rharwood17) and Karen Boyes (@karenboyes) . They put a lot of work into their presentations and they made every effort to make sure that we understood and were engaging with the material. Finally, I want to thank my learning partners, Kelly, Gabriel, Jessica, Brad and Jessica. They kept the conversation going throughout the conference, and made the experience just so much more pleasant.

If you haven’t already, follow me on Twitter and check out @SGroshell’s Teachers Pay Teachers.

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

3 #edtech tools I took away from #AEC2016

#1: Google Story Builder


The first tool we used in my Advanced Technology Integration course at AISA Conference 2016 in Johannesburg was Google Story Builder, a simple program that has students create a dialogue on Google Docs that is published as a short film with music. I can imagine using this tool for class debates, as an alternative to a chat room, or as a simple “About Me” activity to get kids writing. Best thing of all? It takes no sign up (and no VPN. . ) so kids can just hop on and start writing and publishing. Take the published work and upload it onto Seesaw (See 5 Ways to Get the Most out of Seesaw) or whatever your school is using, and you’ve got a fun project in minutes.

#2: My Maps 


My workshop leader, Ryan Harwood (https://ryanharwood.com), had us participating teachers stay connected by having us pin a selfie and our contact information onto where we are teaching using My Maps. I can imagine using this tool in my classroom for our unit on colonization of Africa, and for any project in which you want to add multimedia onto a specific location on the world map. VPN will be an issue for us in Sudan, but I am already thinking of ways to get around that.

#3: Visuwords and Word Clouds



Actually two different tools, but very much the same appeal for the student and teacher. One of the ways that teachers can use technology to engage students is by using tools that appeal to the senses. I’ve created Word Clouds (or Wordles) before, and I’ve used visual thesauruses, but not in a while. Visuwords and Word Clouds don’t require you to sign up, have a range of features that you can use to differentiate for your learners, and can easily be made into a PDF or just screen shot and shared with others.

While I learned about many edtech tools at AEC 2016, these were the ones that I plan to use immediately upon return to the classroom.

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Beginning My Own Action Research


Right now I’m thrilled to be one of the teachers representing my school at the 2016 AISA (Association of International Schools in Africa) conference. As a part of the conference, we have each selected two professional development sessions to work on. The one I’m going to discuss today is about action research, led by Donna Phillips.

What is it?

Action research is looking at the efficacy of what we are teaching. There are four basic categories for this.

  1. Curriculum Analysis
  2. Ethnography
  3. Integrated Action
  4. Self-Study

For my action research, I’m going to focus on integrated action. What effects will come from adding an intervention to my class?

Why do it?


Teaching is an incredibly important job. How do we know we are doing it well? Just because it looks good doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Doing an action research project will help you see what interventions are working and what could benefit from some tweaking.

Also, if you have a fantastic idea that you wish the rest of your school would use, this will give you the evidence that can convince your colleagues you are doing something worth implementing!

How do I want to change my classroom?

To begin our research project, Donna asked us to find a critical question that we are really passionate about. We’re going to be reading literature on this topic in addition to studying it in our room, so we’ve got to have deep motivations for doing so.

I have really found that an area my kids need to work on is persisting. Being students of a PYP school where we do lots of inquiry lessons, students need to have both the drive and the ability to work effectively independently and in small groups when I’m not always right at their side.

The Critical Question

My question started out “How can teaching my kids the Habits of Mind improve their math skills?”

It changed and was refined and changed again until now my question is “How can teaching my students how to persist in challenges improve their ability to do math.”

The Design

Although I will continue to develop my design as I prepare to do it and as I analyze my data, here’s where I am now.


Have you done a similar action research project? Do you have any comments or suggestions? Please comment below!

By @SGroshell

“Poor internet connection” not good enough reason to abandon tech

AEC2016 – Day 3

One of the most wonderful parts of #AEC2016 has been just the sheer amount of African schools, countries, and nationalities represented at this conference. It’s not uncommon to find yourself at a table with a German speaker from Namibia, an American expat rat working in Nowheresville, Madagascar, and an English tech blogger who blogs from the traffic of Lagos, Nigeria.

Because of our shared African context, we all face some of the same challenges, and some would even say “barriers” to teaching our students. Talk of the “impossible” is nowhere more prevalent than in the area of Blended Learning. My Advanced Technology course on Day 3 began with a discussion of the multitude of tech challenges that exist in our classrooms and in our schools.

Poor internet. Outdated devices. Undermanned IT departments. Sanctions! No $$$$$$! These are just some of the experiences that many of us shared and were all too familiar with. But rather than focusing and dwelling on the “impossible”, why don’t we start learning from our African hosts and start making something out of nothing.

Everyday during our commute to and from school in Sudan, we see some of the most amazing examples of African ingenuity and problem-solving. The boys pulling the tin can car. The old man with the tire-tread shoes. The girls with the hoop and stick game.

If our hosts can make something from what is seemingly nothing, so can the 21st century connected teacher. When the internet goes down during a lesson, we should ask our students how we can still learn the same thing without the use of wifi. When we suffer a “tech misadventure”, instead of expressing frustration, we should scrap it and return to it later on in the day once we’ve figured out what went wrong. We should be more comfortable at laughing off our tech failures, and better at postponing a lesson to a time when tech is cooperating.

Let’s take a page out of the African novel. Let’s be better at making the “impossible” possible.

Day 2 #AEC2016: Thoughts on Professional Learning

Day 2
Day 2 of #AEC2016 included an opening plenary with a few great speakers working under a TED-esque 12 minute time frame. The question that all of the speakers were tasked with discussing was “What Change Would You Like to See in Education?” Ideas included emphasizing visible thinking, habits of mind, and deemphasizing failure in our schools.

If I ask myself the same question, it is of course very hard to know where to begin. Part of what makes education so thrilling, but also so frustrating, is that there is a constant battle between a diverse body of individuals that have differing understandings of what the past, the present, and the future mean and hold for our children.

Maybe it’s because I am here at AEC 2016, where I am surrounded by an amazing sense of pride in this profession, but my answer, for what it’s worth, would be the following:

The change that I would like to see in education is that teachers begin to see themselves as professionals.

Now, most of our students consider us professionals, and the best administrators consider us professionals, and depending on what country you’re in or whom you talk to, even some parents consider us to be professionals. But when you really dig deep, deep into the depths of the average teachers’ psyche, do all teachers see themselves at the same level as doctors and lawyers?

I think, sadly, maybe not. And if my assumption is correct that many teachers do not think of their job as a profession, the question is what are we going to do about it? To paraphrase Ken Robinson from his book “Creative Schools”, for any change to happen you have to have:

A critique of how things are

A vision of how they should be

A theory of change for how to move from one to the other

A huge change that came to my career this summer was when I started my Twitter challenge with Stephanie, and created this blog. I was amazed by the creativity of professional teachers across this world, and the discussions and chats that I involved myself in were truly invigorating. What’s been even more impressive is that this newfound energy that developed in me this summer did not go away once the school year started. In fact, it has only grown in intensity as I’ve been able to implement these ideas in my classroom.

So, if we want teachers to see themselves as they should –  as true professionals – teachers have to leave the fishbowls of their schools, and Twitter is the best way I have found to do this. As the Edsurge infographic shows above, professional learning has moved from being a passive exercise to an active one.  The truth is, I may not have ever considered myself to a be a professional until I started creating a professional learning network (PLN) and started my own professional learning cycle.

This conference represents more than a series of institutes held in a host of rooms; It represents an opportunity to grow your PLN and to enter a new phase of your learning cycle. While I look forward to the learning experiences that are to be had here, I am even more excited about the professional learning that awaits me in cyberspace once the conference is over.

#AISA Conference Day 1: Keeping Connected

We’ve Arrived!

I am so looking forward to the opportunities to learn this week in Johannesburg for AISA conference 2016. For a learning event like this, it is important for us educators to be connected. For the adults in my life, I am mostly going to be using Twitter (@MrZachG) in combination with my class twitter account. For my school, I am going to be writing a series of posts on Google Sites in addition to here on education rickshaw, in addition to here on Sites.
But how to share this experience with my 10 year old students?
This bunch of Year 5 students are surprisingly keen on keeping connected throughout the conference. Before I left we discussed what the best way would be to exchange ideas and stay in touch, and students agreed that Seesaw would be the easiest and most fun way to do this.
My first post to students was simply the above #africaed photo, which I’ve posted here and onto Sites by simply pasting the provided embed code into the html editor (a really cool feature of Seesaw is the variety of ways to share!). I will save time by tweeting some of these posts directly from Seesaw so that my PLN and my school community can see what we’re up to.
I’m excited about this opportunity to share what I’m learning with you, wherever you are. Keep in touch! 

Introducing Subtraction with Regrouping Through Inquiry


A few weekends ago, I went to a great workshop on ‘Teaching and Learning through Inquiry’ by Kath Murdoch and came back to work inspired. My class was ready to start using regrouping to subtract 3-digit numbers, and I wanted to help my students get a deep understanding of why we regroup.

Inquiry learning is very different from a traditional lesson. Instead of the teacher telling students exactly what they need to do, students investigate a question, taking the learning into their own hands.

The Provocation

To make the lesson have real world meaning, I began with a situation someone could actually find themselves in.

I love Mentos. I love them so much so that I bought some huge packs from the grocery store. I already ate some, but I still have 2 single Mentos, 2 packs of ten, and one big pack of 100 left (the pack of 100 is actually 10 packs of 10 – like you could get from Costco).

As a class we then worked out that 2 units, 2 tens, and 1 hundred is 122 Mentos.

As much as I love Mentos, my sister enjoys them even more. As a present, I decided to give her 98 of them.

Once I give her the Mentos, how many will I have left?


Working in Groups

Students then got into groups and got to work. They had already done 3-digit subtraction without regrouping, so they knew how to line up the numbers correctly.


Additionally, I gave them base 10 blocks to use as manipulatives and poster paper to draw on. What came next were some amazing discussions on what to do now.

My Job

As the students discussed what to do and tried things, it was my job to walk around and ask questions about student thinking as well as provide scaffolding where needed.

A common mistake for 2nd graders to make is this:


Instead of telling them what they did wrong, I asked questions like:

  • When you subtract, is your answer bigger or smaller than the answer you started with?
    • Smaller
  • Is 176 bigger or smaller than 122?
    • Bigger
  • What do you think happened there?
    • Oh, you can’t take 8 from 2!

When students were completely stumped, I would ask questions to help guide their thinking.

  • If you can’t take 8 from 2, where can you take from?
    • No answer
  • If I have 122 Mentos, do I have enough to give 98 away?
    • Yes
  • If I have enough to give 98 away, then it’s possible. So where can I get those extra units from?
    • Can you take from the tens place?
  • Why not? Try it!

The Results

The results of the inquiry lesson were great. Once the groups had found their answers, they shared their posters and thinking with the class. Although they did it in different ways, all 3 of the groups were able to get to the concept of why we regroup – if we don’t have enough units, we need to borrow from the tens place. If we don’t have enough tens, we need to borrow from the hundreds.

group1inquiry         group2inquiry         group3inquiry

As you can see, one of the groups did get the answer wrong. This was great, because it got us to the conversation of why that happened.


Once the groups had explained their thinking, we brought the analogy back to the packs of Mentos to make sure everyone understood exactly what we were doing.

Together, we drew these conclusions:

I have 1 pack of 100, 2 packs of 10, 2 single Mentos. When I give my sister the 8 Mentos (I always start with the units place), I see that I don’t have enough, so I open a new pack of 10. Now I have 12 single Mentos. 12-8=4. I’m left with 4 in the units place.

To give my sister the other 90 Mentos, I look at the 10s place. I only have 1 pack of 10 left now that I opened the other, so I need to open the pack of 100. When I do that, I now have 11 packs of ten. 11 tens – 9 tens = 2 tens. I have 2 in the tens place.

My Conclusions

I could have just used the Mentos analogy and explained how to subtract with regrouping, done a few practice problems and sent the students off to practice on their own. Although that would have surely gone smoothly, setting up the lesson in this way really allowed students to think more critically about the situation and why we subtract the way that we do. I think this has helped them have a deeper understanding of the concept as well as continue to develop their critical thinking skills.

By @SGroshell

Developing Seesaw Activities into Authentic Learning Engagements

My school’s Primary Section spent last year trialling Seesaw as an alternative to paper-pencil portfolios. The buy-in we got from teachers, parents, and students alike was extraordinary. As we move into a “Phase II” of Seesaw implementation this year, I’ve been tasked with moving teachers from simply using Seesaw as a showcase of student work, to a model that fully takes advantage of all of the features that Seesaw has to offer.

In this post, I am going to be taking about two very different Seesaw users, Teacher A and Teacher B. Teacher A uses Seesaw as an online journaling and portfolio tool, and nothing more. I imagine that the majority of teachers casually using Seesaw today fit into this category. Teacher B, however, uses Seesaw to its fullest potential, and considers Seesaw to be an extension of the physical learning environment more than just a hub for storing pictures and videos.

Teacher A has kids taking pictures of worksheets.


Teacher A simply sticks to taking pictures of worksheets and posting them onto Seesaw. I am going to be using this M&M worksheet as an example throughout this article. Let’s see what Teacher B would do with the very same assignment.

Teacher B Uses the Note Tool to Assign the Task, Putting the Instructions in the Students’ Hands.


Using notes in Seesaw is an essential communication tool for Teacher B. Teacher B doesn’t write the instructions on the board, or project a PowerPoint; She puts the instructions right into the students’ hands.

Teacher B Has A Video Channel For Students that Need Help, or Need an Extension Activity


Teacher B wants their students to know how to do this assignment, so they have created quick instructional videos and uploaded them to their Teacher Channel. Teacher B’s students know where to go for help, and quickly throw on their headphones and solve their problem.

I’ve talked before about the importance of creating a “Fake Student” to flip your classroom. Whenever a student needs help with an assignment, such as the M&M graphing example, they can go to your Teacher Channel and watch the video that you’ve created for them. I use a document camera + a piece of paper most of the time, and I create the videos while the students are in between things. There is very little prep, and it helps students to be self-directed with their learning.

Teacher B Develops the Activity Using a Variety of Apps.

Teacher B understands that one of Seesaw’s greatest advantages is that it is compatible with almost any app – See What Apps is Seesaw Compatible With? – so posts another note to instruct students to input their data onto Numbers or Keynote.


Graphing on Numbers. I also use KeyNote for the same purpose.

Teacher B would never stop at just photographing a worksheet for formality’s sake, but would take the original activity and develop it so that students are getting the most out of the task.

Teacher B Links External Tools Such as Polls, Online Sticky Notes and Quizzes.

To consolidate data in this M&M’s activity, Teacher B uses an external tool such as Poll Daddy, or Survey Monkey, and links it to her classroom using the Link Tool. In this way, the students can see which of the M&M’s were the most frequently featured in the class.

The Link Tool: The Most Underutilized Tool on Seesaw?

One of the areas that I want to focus on this year with my school is how to build resources and activities by using what is available online. Instead of writing down links to things, or projecting them on PowerPoint, why not put the links to Padlet, Quizlet, PollDaddy, etc, onto Seesaw? Something I’ve yet to do, but will soon, is to create a “Fake Student” named Mr. Link that just has the latest links to all of the things that we are working on.

3 Ways to Spice up your E-Learning Platform

Teacher B Uses Social Media to Extend the Conversation


Teacher B uses his class Twitter account to ask the M&M company about the data that was found, hopefully prompting a response or retweet. Teacher B understands how to leverage the power of social media with Seesaw.

In Sum:

Teacher A had students do a paper-pencil activity, and take a picture of it. Yes, some of the parents may have seen it, but the conversation ended there. Teacher B, on the other hand, took the opportunity to use multiple native and non-native tools within Seesaw, and ultimately deepen student learning. There are so many more ways to use Seesaw to its fullest potential that will have to be saved for another article.

If you haven’t already, please follow us on WP and on Twitter, and check out @SGroshell’s TPT.

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com